LETTER TO COASTSIDERS. We will soon be able to start our journey and enter the early stages of Phase 2 with our Roadmap to Resiliency. The key point is “be able to.” Some of us cannot wait while others are not ready. I see it both ways and realize everyone has unique abilities and needs. Some will wait and see because they have the ability to do so while others feel they have mastered essential prevention knowledge and feel healthy enough to start the journey back.
Here is detailed location information about COVID-19 cases by zip code, updated every Friday.
Our Health Officer Dr. Scott Morrow just issued new orders, effective May 18, that will align San Mateo County with the early Phase 2 guidelines of Governor Newsom’s Resilience Roadmap. See Dr. Morrow’s statements about these changes here. Our new public health orders are posted here.
As we spend more time in the presence of people outside of our homes, mandatory face coverings exist to minimally protect others from you in case you are an unknown carrier of the virus. Your self-protection relies on social distancing, good hygiene, and awareness of transmission from fomites. Fomites are any object that may have the virus (pathogen) on it that you may come in contact with. In your limited spare time, looking into “fomite transmission” might be educational and a refresher for those starting back out. There are many studies from industries that continuously deal with limiting transmission: food supply, agriculture, and veterinary protocols. Bottom line is contact with your skin or gloves is low risk but where you put the pathogen transferred from the fomite is where the risk escalates. Nine weeks into serious COVID-19 education and I still see hands to faces out there.
On a neighborhood zoom check-in, a surgeon from El Granada said it best, “When you are gloved up in surgery everything you touch is like wet paint. Any contact with your hands or body now has wet paint on them.” Here is a short video with tips on staying safe as we grapple with how to safely reopen society and here is a widely-circulated explainer with more information by the same UMass Dartmouth Biology Professor, Dr. Erin Bromage, that offers the science behind staying away from groups in enclosed spaces over a period of time.
Since I linked the fomite transmission practices with animals, I will go with a horse analogy to describe my concern about how people will respond to relaxation of the health orders. When a horse has been confined to its stall for a lengthy period of time it is not advisable to saddle up and ride off straight away. I am not an equestrian, but I have responded to a medical call or two where the injured rider attributed this as the cause of their accident. Ideally, you lead the horse out of the stall and turn it out into a pen or arena to run free for a bit to release pent up steam, calm down, and adjust to being in a more open environment. I look at it the same way with people who will have the freedom to go more than 5 miles from home and other relaxed restrictions after 9 weeks of shelter in place. I have been on an increased number of accidents recently and if you saw the stories or watched the CHP video of the water rescue below the Ritz you will see that we are getting more people coming out for recreation and get-away activities. My advice to you is to take it slow and drive defensively on the roads more than ever because there may be others out there who have not adjusted to the new conditions.
If you are experiencing house-bound COVID-related stress (who isn’t?) here is another tool that might be useful. During the pandemic, the most popular course in the more than three-century history of Yale, The Science of Well-Being, is being offered online free of charge via Coursera. The ‘Happiness’ course teaches ways to move forward and adapt constructively to change.
I always took pride in what I thought was my good work ethic. I took 3 days off when my mother passed away and 4 hours when my second daughter was born (it was 4 AM at the end of my shift when I got the call that it was go time). Organizationally (previous organization), we were given recognition and it was in our labor contract to get a “preservation of sick leave award” for every 365 days we went without using sick leave. I received several recognition plaques (none with my name spelled correctly) and 2 extra vacation days to be used in the next year. Looking back, when I had a cold or slight fever I felt I just needed to “work through it.” Today, that is no longer (and really never was) “just a cold” and individuals (me) and organizations are implementing infection control policies with employees by daily temperature checks and health questionnaires. I think I should search my garage for one of those plaques!
So those of you who saw my antigen test video in week 6 and the results reported in week 7 know I received a negative test. I said then that “several of us at work suspect we may have had COVID-19 at the end of December or beginning of January – and the experts keep telling us that would have been too early to have contracted the disease. I accept the expert advice and tell myself that it was just the worst flu of my life. However, the second I get a chance to take the antibody test, I’m taking it!”
Well, I got in on a group order to get antibody tests and those tests have been “held at the FedEx hub by FDA customs” for over 6 weeks. There is a tremendous controversy over the accuracy of the test and the presence of the antibody only means you have been exposed but it is still unknown if one gains any effective immunity as a result. I was able to privately obtain two tests and I self-administered one of them. A very simple process in a parking lot that probably looked like something more sinister: A simple prick of the finger, using a tiny bulb syringe to obtain a few drops of blood, transfer the blood to the stick with litmus-type paper that looks like an early pregnancy test, 2 drops of reagent, and wait.
Then the anticipation takes over. I’m hoping for a positive result. In my mind, I am thinking that a positive test could mean I do not have to worry about COVID-19 anymore. I can walk the streets with a cape and an “I” on my chest for my superpower of Immunity! Then there is a change in the test! There is a red line at the “C” which means I successfully got enough blood and reagent on the test for it to look for IgG and IgM antibodies. My badge of immunity could be there any second!…waiting…. Now the doubt kicks in, if I get a positive result I don’t know if it’s real or what it means. Still nothing; I’m feeling human and vulnerable again. I am glad that I have the face covering and sunglasses on because I can blame the watering eyes on condensation and it quickly gets absorbed by the cloth as I now have the sunglasses resting on the mask. OK, it’s pretty clear the two antibody lines are not going to show up as it has been 20 minutes. Looks like I just had the worst flu of my life 4 months ago and nothing more…. but wait, there is no guarantee the test worked! There is still hope!
I am far from a scientist, but that second test has to go to good use, so many agonizing days later, I gave it to someone I know who definitely had COVID-19 and recovered. She pricks her finger, transfers the blood with the dropper to the test stick, and applies the reagent. Now I am ready to wait, but not emotionally attached. I am an expert at this, having gone through it before (hopefully you can identify my sarcasm after 9 weeks!). As I state with authority that it will take up to 20 minutes she stops me and points at the stick: the IgM is redlined, the IgG is visible, and the Control line is red. The test worked for her, consistent with the approved test she has had. My hopes of superpowers are shattered yet again.
Last month, when I thought my risk tolerance was high, I joked with my friend in Shanghai that I would jump on the first 737-Max to visit Shanghai Disney and take him to lunch in Wuhan. That is out for now, although I do have plans for the 4th of July at Disney World Florida! (Don’t judge me!)
Looking forward to Zooming with you Tuesday evening!
Fire Battalion Chief David Cosgrave
San Mateo County Battalion 10
Serving Coastside Fire Protection District
San Mateo/Santa Cruz Unit Battalion 10-A
Cell (650) 740-7247
or call the
On-Duty Coastside Battalion Chief (877) 298-1712
Proudly Serving Coastside Fire Protection District and San Mateo County Fire Department